Derry-born Django Django frontman Vinnie Neff on Dublin gig
Edinburgh-bred psychedelic art-dance mavericks Django Django have been forced to postpone tonight's sold-out gig at Dublin's Tivoli until March 27 due to the weather. David Roy quizzed Derry-born singer/guitarist Vincent Neff about what fans can expect from the tour for their new album Marble Skies
HELLO Vinnie, what are you up to this afternoon?
We're just getting all the last bits and bobs together for the tour – clothes and lights, restringing guitars, fixing broken keys and all that sort of stuff. We're firing vitamins into us and trying to get a month's supply of underpants together!
Have you got a set-list together yet?
Yeah, that's all sorted. We kind of got on top of it last week and finalised it. We've got about seven of the new tracks in there, which is quite a hefty amount. We played a few before the album came out – but it will be good to finally be playing to people who've actually already heard them.
Do you try to play stuff off both Django Django (2012) and Born Under Saturn (2015) as well and how do you approach structuring the set?
We've still got Default and WOR and stuff off the first record to try and keep people happy, and Shake & Tremble, First Light and – depending on the length of the set – 4,000 Years are in there [all from Born Under Saturn].
For the past two or three months we've been doing festival gigs which are only 45-minute sets, whereas normally we play like an hour and 15. With the shorter sets you really have to cherry-pick a bit more and try to play the 'big impact' stuff.
There's definitely always lots of debate about the final section. The way you start and the way you finish is quite important, to kind of set the mood.
So there's always a lot of slagging and telling each other to go do one, but it's really trial and error. If somebody has got something in their head, you try it –and if it doesn't work then you move on to something else.
It's all sorted now, but I guess the first couple of gigs of this tour will probably be a bit like when you see a comedian running through their stuff in a pub in north London before the Edinburgh Fringe – watching the crowd to see what works and what doesn't and what we might change.
So will you be taking requests, then?
Haha, well we always get a shout-out for [epic polyrhythmic psychedelic groover] Zumm Zumm off the first album – but we tried to play it about four years ago and it's just impossible!
It's about a 10 minute layer-up of stuff. It works in a studio setting but it definitely doesn't work live!
Do you have to change the songs much from their original recorded versions in order to make them work live?
Sometimes there's stuff on the records that we think is going to be easy to play live, like a simple four-to-the-floor kind of kickdrum thing – but, when you try it out, you realise that there's actually not enough going on: so you change the tempo or change the mood of it.
Also, you have to put it in context with the other songs. If there's another track with a similar tempo and vibe then we'll maybe strip it right to basics. Like, we've been playing [recent single] In Your Beat on the acoustic guitars recently, which is sounding really nice.
I don't know if we'll do it that way in this live set, but we always have that version in the back pocket now.
The band have become known for colourful stage outfits and trippy live visuals, what have you got in store for fans this time around?
Well, the outfits are top secret for the moment – we're not doing jumpsuits, put it that way. We've been working with friends of ours who are lighting designers and obviously, coming from art school, we've all got ideas too. So Tommy [Grace, synths], Jim [Dixon, bass], Dave [Maclean, drums/production] and myself have been firing stuff over to them.
I suppose we're still trying to create a rave kind of atmosphere, in parts. We've got these big kind of like arches that hang above the stage and get projected on. They're lit around the edges, so sometimes they look like windows and sometimes it's like a void.
Marble Skies has been out for just over a month now and is a much more focused, streamlined listen than Born Under Saturn. Was getting back to self-recording and producing after using a big studio for the last album a big factor in the way it turned out?
The production element is pretty essential to our sound. On the first album Dave would be mixing a real snare drum with like an electronic hi-hat and sampled kick. We'd be plugging the guitar directly into the back of the computer because we didn't have an amp, which made the guitar sound quite weird, and then the bass was just a guitar tuned down in ProTools.
Everything just sort of sounded slightly weird and hard to pinpoint, but then on the second album we had this big studio with a proper drum kit all mic'd up and stuff. So we maybe kind of lost the essence of our 'sound' a little – although I think the songwriting is in some ways maybe better than on the first.
For the debut, it was essentially me writing a lot of the music and Dave producing and editing it, so on the second one I think in a way we were kind of still learning to work together and there was obviously a bit of friction just in terms of trying to get the ball rolling with that.
But once we'd kind of punched through that and got it sorted, we had a good template for [writing] this one.
The first record also took us by surprise, the way it built and built. It was kind of like the first one was almost too well received, in some ways. So then you have this nagging pressure in the back of your mind about how to follow it up.
But I'm glad that we've now kind of got back a bit more to the head space we had back then, where we're quite self-sufficient.
Are you looking forward to playing Dublin again and are there any gigs planned north of the border?
We are, our Dublin shows have always been really hilariously nutty in terms of the audience, so we always look forward to it. I always really enjoy them and the other fellas always have a slight sense of anticipation about what's going to happen there.
We're actually working on maybe doing something up in Belfast just before the summer. There's loads of logistics to work out just in terms of it actually being feasible – but hopefully it will be confirmed soon.
Django Django, March 27, The Tivoli, Dublin (sold out).